The Best Esky for Ice Cold Food and DrinkThe Best Esky for Ice Cold Food and Drink

The Best Esky

Or how to always have a cold beer, wherever you are (because priorities).
Sarah Idle
Words by 
Sarah Idle
Updated 
Aug 28, 2020
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At a glance

Heading out into the bush or boat doesn’t mean completely roughing it. Sure, there might be leaves instead of loo roll, but you can still enjoy a cool beer or 2, wherever you are. That’s thanks to an esky (otherwise known as a cooler or ice box). 

Well-suited for long journeys or day trips to the beach, the best esky is easy to carry and clean. It stays safe in your car thanks to tie down points and it’s strong enough to cope with plenty of food and drink, and even someone perched on top of it. 

This is our guide to the top esky in Australia. It combines expert testing with real-world insights. It also covers portable fridges / freezers. These compact small appliances are perfectly suited to your motorhome, campervan or caravan. Electric or gas-powered, they’ll keep your stuff colder for longer than an esky and you’ll never have to refill the ice.

Best for most

Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes

What we love most about Dometic CI ice boxes is regardless of price, you’re getting pretty much the same great features. These include strong and durable seam-free construction, dual-use carrying handles / tie down points and compatibility with a wide range of accessories, backed by a decent 5-year guarantee.

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Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes
Top
Pick
Best original

Esky Arctic Pro Cooler

If you want an esky, it makes sense to consider the original Esky. Especially with cost-effective options such as the Arctic Pro and Arctic Pro Rugged. They’re full of smart features, like silicone gaskets for a tight seal, oversize 2-piece bungs and lockable lids, and are designed especially for Australian weather.

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Esky Arctic Pro Cooler
Best for durability

YETI Roadie 20

We might not have grizzlies but we’ve got to watch out for those pesky drop bears. Luckily, the YETI Roadie 20 withstands any type of bear attack - it’s got the official seal of approval from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (yep, it’s a thing). That’s how durable and tough this esky is.

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YETI Roadie 20
Best portable fridge

Bushman Original SC35-52

The Bushman Original SC35-52 is a beloved Aussie portable fridge / freezer that’s been trusted and loved by Aussies for over 20 years. We really love its unique extension kit that transforms it from a 35L fridge to a 45L or 52L one, making this 3 fridges in 1.

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Bushman Original SC35-52

How we picked

We started with the ever-reliable CHOICE, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group. When it comes to eskies, they assess performance by ‘visual inspection’ and lab testing for selected models. Which means the testing for ice boxes isn’t quite as rigorous as other products they review. But their lab testing for portable fridges / freezers is their usual high standard.

Armed with CHOICE insights, we turned to ProductReview.com.au, Australia’s first consumer opinion website. And immediately discovered that there aren’t that many eskies reviewed by Aussies. So, our usual criteria of at least 50 reviews and more than 3 stars didn’t really apply.

This meant we needed to look elsewhere to understand how these ice boxes perform. Enter Australian outdoor specialist websites, including Outback Travel Australia and Outback Review. Both these sites, dedicated to the great Australian outdoors, gave us an understanding of how some eskies worked in real-world situations. Think camping, boating, or fishing or hunting weekends.

We then narrowed down our picks by looking for certain features. We didn’t pay too much attention to the amount of time they claimed the eskies could keep ice for. That’s because these claims are rarely backed by evidence or consumer reviews. Instead, we looked for helpful things like built-in handles and tie down points, compatibility with a range of accessories to extend its use, and enough strength to sit your weary body on. 

We didn’t have any problems with portable fridges / freezers on ProductReview.com.au - there were hundreds of them. We trawled through to find the consistently high performers.

Armed with all this information, we could choose Australia’s best coolers and portable fridges / freezers.

Best for most -> Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes

Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes

What we love most about Dometic CI ice boxes is regardless of price, you’re getting pretty much the same great features. These include strong and durable seam-free construction, dual-use carrying handles / tie down points and compatibility with a wide range of accessories, backed by a decent 5-year guarantee.

Check price

There are 3 levels of Dometic Cool-Ice ice box to best suit your needs. Choose the CI 42 or 70 to keep ice up to several days. If you’re going bush, choose the CI 55, 85 or 110 which keep ice up to 10 days. If you’re into convenience, choose the CI 85W as it has wheels and an extended handle.

Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes size guide

  • CI 42, 42L – several days ice
  • CI 55, 55L – 10 days ice
  • CI 70, 70L – several days ice
  • CI 85, 85L – 10 days ice
  • CI 110, 111L – 10 days ice
  • CI85W, 85L – several days, wheels, extended handle

Regardless of which size or length of ice keeping you’re looking for, they’re all packing the same great features. 

This includes thick refrigeration-grade foam insulation with a unique ‘labyrinth seal design’. Dometic claims this holds cold air inside and keeps hot air out for longer. This is helped by its rotomoulded seam-free design. No seams mean no areas for cold to escape and heat to enter. 

Made of food-grade polyethylene (plastic), the CI ice boxes are strong, durable and easy to clean. Their easy-clean nature is helped by the large diameter drain plug – although we couldn’t find the dimensions of this. The strong ergonomic polyethylene handles make them easy to carry. They fold down when not in use and double as a tie down points for securing the ice box in your ute or boat. Integrated polyethylene feet mean they’re impossible to lose. 

Again, to prevent any weak spots for cold to escape or heat to enter, the hinges are integrated. While the latches are made of user-friendly durable rubber. The CI ice boxes are compatible with a wide range of accessories to enhance your outdoors experience. This includes storage baskets, seat cushions, drink and rod holders and a bottle opener. However, they all cost extra. 

These ice boxes have been recognised internationally for their smart design. In 2018, they were awarded an iF Design Award for Product. According to iF, this award is “recognised as a symbol of design excellence around the world”. Judges praised Dometic Cool-Ice ice boxes’ ‘smartness, reliability and outstanding design’. 

Finally, Dometic Cool-Ice Iceboxes all come with a 5-year guarantee, even the most affordable one (CI 42 - $249). 

All the CI models we’ve covered in this review have been tested by CHOICE. There are also a limited number of reviews on ProductReview.com.au where Waeco (Dometic’s previous name) scores just over 3 stars. 

Why buy the Dometic CI

Seam-free design

Which means there are no gaps for cold to escape or heat to enter.

Large diameter plug

For easy emptying when you leave. 

Easy clean

Thanks to the food-grade polyethylene construction and seam-free design. 

Handles

Ergonomic, they make the ice boxes easy to carry. They also double as tie down points.

Integrated hinges

Which again means no spaces for air to be lost or enter.

5-year guarantee

All models, even the most affordable, come with a 5-year guarantee.

Award-winning

In 2018, these ice boxes were awarded the iF Design Award for product which brings international backing to their smart design claims.

The not-so-good bits

Accessories extra

Dometic CI ice boxes are compatible with a wide range of accessories – but you pay extra for them. These include storage baskets, seat cushions, drink and rod holders and a bottle opener.

No wheels

A full esky can be tricky to carry, meaning wheels can be handy. You need to upgrade to the most expensive CI85W ($469, 85L) to get wheels.

No lockable lid

Which means you can’t keep sticky fingers out of your food / drink / fish / spare body parts, etc.  

Consumer reviews

The limited reviews (less than 10) are only middling. But these are some of the only ice boxes that we found any independent Australian consumer reviews for. 

In summary 

Whatever size ice box you’re after, and however long you need to keep ice for, Dometic CI ice boxes have a solution. What we love most is regardless of the price, you’re getting pretty much the same great features. (Unless you want wheels – you’ll pay more for that.) Dometic CI ice box features include strong and durable seam-free construction, dual-use carrying handles / tie down points and compatibility with a wide range of accessories, backed by a decent 5-year guarantee.

Best original -> Esky Arctic Pro Cooler

Esky Arctic Pro Cooler

If you want an esky, it makes sense to consider the original Esky. Especially with cost-effective options such as the Arctic Pro and Arctic Pro Rugged. They’re full of smart features, like silicone gaskets for a tight seal, oversize 2-piece bungs and lockable lids, and are designed especially for Australian weather.

Check price

Questionable name aside, if you’re looking for an esky, you should probably consider the original. Again, we’ve got a range of sizes and prices to suit. In the Arctic Pro range, we’re covering a 50L, 70L and 120L. Or you can upgrade to the Arctic Pro Rugged range in 50L or 70L.

Esky Arctic sizing guide

  • Pro 50L – up to 7 days ice
  • Pro 70L – up to 7 days ice
  • Pro 120L – up to 7 days ice
  • Rugged 50L – up to 7 days ice – extra features include light under lid and cushion seat
  • Rugged 70L – up to 7 days ice – extra features include light under lid and cushion seat

Whichever one you opt for, Esky reckons ice will last up to 7 days. This is thanks to up to 50mm of foam insulation in the lid and body, plus the silicone gasket in the lid. This helps form a tight seal and stop the cool air escaping.

They all feature heavy duty grab handles that fold down when not in use for easy storage. They also have tie down points and stainless-steel fittings to cope with harsh weather conditions. The lids are lockable to keep your stuff safe. We really like the oversize 2-piece bung that ensures any liquid stays inside. Note that the Arctic Pro range doesn’t have feet. Feet help elevate the ice box off warm ground, meaning the ice box doesn’t have to work as hard to keep things cool. 

You can get some great accessories for your Esky Arctic Pro, including a cutting board, cooler divider / ice brick and a wire basket. But again, you need to pay extra for these.

If you’re going to be hammering your Esky, you might want to upgrade to the Esky Arctic Pro Rugged. Packing the same up to 7-day ice retention and features as the Arctic Pro range, the Rugged range is a tougher version. It has heavy duty rubber side bumpers and feet. Unlike the Arctic Pro, it also has a removable cushioned seat with fish ruler, a built-in bottle opener and a LED cooler light so you can always spot your beer, even at night. Also unlike the Arctic Pro, it comes with accessories, including a wire basket and 2 dividers / ice blocks. Phew.

Whether you choose the Esky Arctic Pro or Arctic Pro Rugged, you’re getting a 5-year warranty. All the models we’ve covered here have been reviewed by CHOICE. But the reason the Esky isn’t our winner? A lack of consumer reviews. 

Why buy the Esky Arctic Cooler

Silicone gasket in lid

This helps create a firm seal to trap cool air inside and adds weight to Esky’s claim that it keeps ice up to 7 days. 

Tie down points

To keep your Esky safe and secure.

Stainless-steel fittings

Highly durable, they’ll help withstand any harsh weather or water soakings.

Lockable lids

For keeping your stuff safe and prying fingers out. 

2-piece bung

Oversize, this helps keep any liquid inside with no leaks. 

Price

These are the most affordable ice boxes we reviewed, starting from $149 for 50L.

Australian-designed

And designed to suit the harsh Aussie weather conditions. 

Pro Rugged only

LED cooler light

See what’s inside, even at night, with this handy light built into the lid.

Built-in bottle opener

Essential for hot Aussie days. 

Cushioned seat

For comfortable sitting. It also doubles as a fish ruler.

Included accessories

You don’t need to pay extra for accessories, they’re included with the Pro Rugged. These are a wire basket and 2 dividers / ice blocks.

5-year warranty

All Esky’s come with a 5-year warranty, which is the same as our Dometic CI winner but for around $150 less. 

The not-so-good bits

No wheels

None of the Esky’s, even the largest 120L one we’ve covered, have wheels. Which makes them hard to move around. 

Arctic Pro only

No feet

Having feet on your ice box lifts it above potentially warm ground. No feet? Your ice box works a little harder to keep things cool. 

Extra accessories

There’s a great range of compatible Esky accessories, including a cutting board, cooler divider / ice brick and a wire basket. But you pay extra for them. 

No consumer reviews

None of the Esky’s are featured on ProductReview.com.au, which means we don’t know how they perform for real Aussies. 

In summary 

If you want an esky, it makes sense to consider the original Esky. Especially with cost-effective options such as the Arctic Pro and Arctic Pro Rugged. Smart features, like silicone gaskets in the lid for a tight seal, oversize 2-piece bungs and lockable lids, combine with the fact they’re designed especially for Australian weather. But how they perform for Aussies? We’re not sure.

Best for durability -> YETI Roadie 20

YETI Roadie 20

We might not have grizzlies but we’ve got to watch out for those pesky drop bears. Luckily, the YETI Roadie 20 withstands any type of bear attack - it’s got the official seal of approval from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (yep, it’s a thing). That’s how durable and tough this esky is.

Check price

If you’re planning on going bush, like really bush, you need a durable esky that can withstand a lot. Enter the YETI Roadie 20. This is one almost indestructible esky. Don’t believe us? It’s officially tested and approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Yes, that’s a real thing. And no, bears aren’t exactly relevant for us (although koala bears aren’t as cuddly as they look). It does give you an idea of how ridiculously durable this thing is though.

That’s thanks to its rotomolded construction, which means no seams and weak spots. It comes with T-Rex lid latches. These heavy-duty rubber latches are designed to last (and bonus, this helps with the bear-proofness). 

It’s packing a lot of tech to keep your tinnies cool too. There’s Fatwall design, where extra thick walls hold up to 5cm of insulation. Commercial-grade polyurethane foam in the walls and lid keeps your ice, ice. There’s also a gasket around the lid to block out heat and lock in cold. The Interlock lid system creates a close-fitting barrier against heat.

For easy use, it’s got a padded handle, moulded tie-down slots, a drain system and non-slip feet. It’s compact, measuring 37cm H x 49cm W x 35cm D. It weighs almost 7kg empty. It holds 14 cans or 9kg of ice. 

As you’d expect for this extreme toughness, it’s not cheap. It’s RRP $300. CHOICE hasn’t reviewed it and it currently only has 1 (glowing 5-star) review on ProductReview.com.au. But the reviewer mentions how durable it is, including how it’s survived a fall off the back of a truck without opening.

Why buy the YETI Roadie 20

Durability

We reckon this is the toughest, most durable esky we’ve reviewed. If you’re going to put your esky through a lot, this might be worth the investment.

Rotomolded construction

Which means no seams and no weak points, boosting its durability.

Keep cold technology

It’s packing a lot of tech to keep your stuff cold. This includes extra thick walls with 5cm of insulation, polyurethane foam in the walls and lid, interlock lid system and a top quality gasket.

Drain system

Need to drain it, quickly and easily? You can with the leakproof and rugged drain system.

Tie-down slots

To keep it secure on your boat, trailer or truck bed.

Feet

Non-slip feet make sure it stays where you leave it, plus raise it off the ground to help with keeping your stuff cool.

Padded handle

Making it slightly more comfortable to hold and carry around.

The not-so-good bits

Price

Around $300, it’s eye-wateringly expensive for an esky.

No wheels

With no wheels and only 1 handle, enjoy lugging it around, especially when you bash your shins on the multiple corners.

Lack of consumer reviews

It’s only got 1 Aussie consumer review so far. It’s also not been tested by CHOICE.

In summary

The YETI Roadie 20 is for anyone who’s planning on putting their esky through a lot. Because this is one durable and tough esky. That’s thanks to its rotomolded construction and heavy-duty rubber latches. Want more proof of its toughness? It’s officially tested and approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. To keep your beer cool, it’s got extra thick walls with 5cm of insulation, foam in the walls and lid, a tight-fitting lid and a gasket in the lid to block out heat. Expect to pay around $300 for this extreme durability.

Best portable fridge -> Bushman Original SC35-52

YETI Roadie 20

The Bushman Original SC35-52 is a beloved Aussie portable fridge / freezer that’s been trusted and loved by Aussies for over 20 years. We really love its unique extension kit that transforms it from a 35L fridge to a 45L or 52L one, making this 3 fridges in 1.

Check price

If an esky won’t cut it for your keeping-stuff-cool needs, consider a portable fridge / freezer. We reckon the Bushman Original SC35-52 is the best one. For starters, it’s been kicking around in Australia for more than 20 years. That’s a lot of experience. 

It’s also really flexible. It comes with an extension kit so you can adjust it from 35L to 45L and up to 52L. It’s got separate areas for your frozen food, fridge food, crisper plus tall bottles. Three stacking baskets mean you can always get to the stuff that’s on the bottom. 

It can handle temperatures between -22 degrees to 10 degrees. The digital thermometer with LCD screen lets you know at glance what’s going on inside. It comes with a transit cover to keep it protected while you’re on the move.

It’s been reviewed by CHOICE and is a ProductReview.com.au award winner for 3 years running, where it gets almost 5 stars from well over 100 reviews. Bushman is a 100% Australian owned family company since the 80s so you’ll also be supporting local.

Obviously, there’s got to be a downside. We reckon that’s the price. It’s RRP $1,395, although it does come with a 5-year warranty to protect your investment. 

Why buy the Bushman Original SC35-52

Decades of Australian experience

The Bushman Original has been used and loved for over 20 years in Australia so you know it must be good.

Flexibility

The unique extension kit transforms it from 35L to 45L or 52L.

Separate areas

Keep your frozen, fridge and crisper stuff separate. There’s even room for tall bottles (yes for a chilled wine or 2).

Stacking baskets

Get to the bottom of it easily, thanks to moveable and stackable baskets. 

Transit cover

Protect it while you’re on the move with the included transit cover.

Digital thermometer

With an LCD screen you can easily see what temp you’ve got inside.

Loved by Aussies

It’s a ProductReview.com.au award winner, 3 years in a row. It gets almost 5 stars from well over 100 reviews.

Aussie-owned business

For those feel good, support local vibes.

The not-so-good bits

That price tho.

In summary

The Bushman Original SC35-52 is a beloved Aussie portable fridge / freezer. It’s been trusted and used for over 20 years which is a good testament to its quality. It has a unique extension kit that transforms it from a 35L fridge to a 45L or 52L one. It keeps your frozen food, fridge food and crisper food separate, and also has room for tall bottles. Three stacking baskets mean you can always get to the stuff that’s on the bottom. It comes in at a huge RRP $1,395.

The competition

Here’s the best of the rest.

Engel MT45FP - portable fridge / freezer

We thought our best portable fridge / freezer pick, the Bushman Original SC35-52 was expensive. Well, the Engel MT45FP tops it. It has a whopping RRP of $1,439.

We reckon that’s probably because of its toughness and durability. It has tough steel casing and a heavy duty lid, handles, feet and locks. Which means it can survive getting thrown around rough outback roads. Engel reckons this is ‘a legend in reliability’. The Aussie consumer reviews we found rave about its energy efficient and its reliability. It racks up a great around 4 stars. It’s also been reviewed by CHOICE.

It has a 40L capacity, which translates to about 60 cans. It can hold wine bottles too, thanks to its deep interior. It has an interior LED light that helps you find what you’re looking for. It has 1 basket which you can lift out to make digging through it easier.

It can plug into your vehicle's cigarette socket plus a 240V lead with 3-pin plug. It comes with a 5-year warranty.

Choose this if…

You want a durable portable fridge / freezer that’s renowned for its reliability and you’re happy to have just 1 basket rather than separate compartments.

Mangrove Outdoors M45L Cooler

We’re fans of the Mangrove Outdoors M45L cooler because it’s packing a lot in. RRP $350, it’s not the most affordable option but you’re getting a lot for your money. The rotomolded construction means it’s hardy and durable. It has polyfoam insulation between the cooler walls, to keep your cold stuff cold. Although we haven’t been able to find how thick the insulation or walls are. The coolness power is helped by the heavy duty latches to tightly seal the cooler and a rubber gasket that lines the lid.

45L, it holds around 30 beers. For easy use, it has a drain plug and comfort handles.

So far, so standard. But it comes with a marine-grade, slip-resistant pad to protect the cooler and provide extra insulation. Most importantly, it also provides a softer seat. It also comes with a dry goods basket, drink holder and acrylic cutting board / divider. Which are usually paid-for extras.

Although it hasn’t been reviewed by CHOICE, it gets glowing consumer reviews.

Choose this if…

You want to get a lot for your money, including a soft seat, basket, drink holder plus cutting board / divider.

Techniice Signature Series

Techniice has gone for the theory that more is better. The models we cover offer 2 choices: no wheels (45L, 60L, 70L and 125L) or wheels (85L and 105L). Other than wheels, the features they offer are the same. This is when we get to the ‘more is better’ bit. The Signature Series has 74mm walls. Compare this to the Esky models, which have up to 50mm. Techniice reckons this is “more than twice as thick as most polyethylene ice boxes”. Which doesn’t work by our calcs, based on the Esky’s.

Sticking with ‘more is better’, the Techniice bung is also 50mm diameter, about the size of tow ball. Plus, it can hold not 1 but 2 padlocks and it has a dual air lock seal system.

All the ice boxes have 4 sturdy feet to allow 360-degree air circulation (Esky, take note), heavy duty reinforced nylon handles, tie down points and an integrated fish ruler on the lid. They’re all compatible with baskets and dividers, sold separately. 

Pay more, and you can get ice boxes with wheels. 

This all sounds amazing. Although all these models have been reviewed by CHOICE, Techniice claims that their Signature Series is the New Zealand winner of Best Ice Keeper according to Consumer and the UK winner of Best Ice Keeper according to Practical Caravan and Practical Motorhome. We haven’t found evidence to back these claims up.

The Techniice company reviews on ProductReview.com.au are pretty bad, with the majority of reviewers giving them 1 star. The biggest complaints are around non-delivery of ice boxes. 

Choose this if...

You want more for your money – more insulation, more padlock capacity, more air lock seals – and you want to pay more. You’ll need to be happy to take the risk that your ice box will be delivered.

Tropical Ice Boxes

These bright orange ice boxes are iconic on Aussie campgrounds and boats. Australian-designed, owned and operated from the Sunshine Coast, Tropical reckons they produce the toughest ‘Australian rotomoulded food-grade UV stabilised polyethylene ice boxes’. In English, this means they have the same seam-free design and material as our Dometic CI winner. It also means they shouldn’t fade under the harsh Aussie sun. 

Unique to Tropical is the ‘super hinge design’. Honestly, we’re not quite sure what benefits this brings. They all have non-slip rubber feet for stability, built-in handles and a loop and button catch to secure the lid. We can’t find any mention of tie down points. 

All the models we’re covering here (T52, T62, T75 and T85) have been reviewed by CHOICE and the T62 has been well-reviewed by Outback Travel Australia in their Icebox Test. The team praised the terrifically simple elastic latches, its strength and toughness and the fact you can sit on it. Tropical Ice Boxes don’t currently have any ProductReview.com.au reviews. 

Choose this if...

You want an Aussie classic, no-frills esky that has the strength and toughness of our Dometic CI winner without the price tag but simpler features (think elastic latches and no tie down points).

Evakool 60

The Evakool 60 is the most expensive 60L ice box we reviewed. It comes in at a cool $459. You’re getting an ice smooth fibreglass cooler which Evakool reckons will keep ice for up to 15 days. If that’s true, it’s the longest claimed time of any of our picks.

Even if it doesn’t, the smooth surfaces with no ridges or cracks make it easy clean. Fibreglass also makes it lightweight but sturdy and resistant to odours, rust and corrosion. As fibreglass reflects the heat, things stay cooler for longer.

The handles can be used as tie-down points and it’s been designed for Australian conditions. It has protective feet, elastic latches, an optional removable food tray and a 5-year warranty. Each one is also handmade for that extra quality touch.

It’s been reviewed by CHOICE but isn’t on ProductReview.com.au. However, it’s been reviewed by Outback Australia who rate its top quality and strong performance with no downsides. It’s also Outback Review’s top choice thanks to its solid handmade construction, high quality fittings and hygienic, heat-reflecting fibreglass. 

Choose this if...

You think fibreglass is the best material, want to keep ice for up to 15 days in a handmade ice box designed for Australian conditions and are happy to spend over $450 on a 60L ice box.

How we picked

We started with the ever-reliable CHOICE, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group. When it comes to eskies, they assess performance by ‘visual inspection’ and lab testing for selected models. Which means the testing for ice boxes isn’t quite as rigorous as other products they review. But their lab testing for portable fridges / freezers is their usual high standard.

Armed with CHOICE insights, we turned to ProductReview.com.au, Australia’s first consumer opinion website. And immediately discovered that there aren’t that many eskies reviewed by Aussies. So, our usual criteria of at least 50 reviews and more than 3 stars didn’t really apply.

This meant we needed to look elsewhere to understand how these ice boxes perform. Enter Australian outdoor specialist websites, including Outback Travel Australia and Outback Review. Both these sites, dedicated to the great Australian outdoors, gave us an understanding of how some eskies worked in real-world situations. Think camping, boating, or fishing or hunting weekends.

We then narrowed down our picks by looking for certain features. We didn’t pay too much attention to the amount of time they claimed the eskies could keep ice for. That’s because these claims are rarely backed by evidence or consumer reviews. Instead, we looked for helpful things like built-in handles and tie down points, compatibility with a range of accessories to extend its use, and enough strength to sit your weary body on. 

We didn’t have any problems with portable fridges / freezers on ProductReview.com.au - there were hundreds of them. We trawled through to find the consistently high performers.

Armed with all this information, we could choose Australia’s best coolers and portable fridges / freezers.

Important features to consider

To guide your search for an esky, here’s what to look for.

Insulation

Generally, thicker walls mean better insulation. As it’s hard to tell how thick the walls are, give them (and the lids) a squeeze. If they compress easily, they’ll probably filled with air, not ice-keeping insulation.

Seals

The lid and other openings, like the drain plug, should have good seals around them. The better they are, the better they’ll be at stopping the cold air escaping. 

Easy clean

Seam-free design and smooth surfaces are easier to keep clean. That’s because they’ve got less mess-attracting crevices.

Dry ice compatibility

Extra cold, dry ice helps keep your food extra chilled. But because it can damage your esky, make sure you check the instructions to see if you can use it. 

Wheels

A heavily laden esky can be heavy to move around. Look for wheels to help make this easier. 

Handles

To help with carrying, handles should be heavy duty and easy to hold. Some are ergonomically designed for maximum comfort.

Drain plug

Need to drain away melted ice? A drain plug can help. It means you don’t have to tip over the cooler, which can be difficult if you’ve got a large or heavy one. 

Lockable lid

If you’re planning on leaving your esky alone (think on a campsite when you’re in the boat), a lockable lid is a good idea.

Tie down points

Keep your ice box safe and secure in your car with tie down points.

Compatibility with accessories

Make your esky more flexible with extra accessories. These include lid cushions, chopping boards, dividers, baskets and ice blocks. Usually you’ll pay extra for these.

What you get if you spend more

The most basic esky has most of the features we’ve covered above. Which means it should have everything you need. Pay more and you’ll get extra comfort and convenience, but probably not better performance.

A light under the lid

For easy viewing, some high-end models include a light under the lid. The only models we reviewed with this feature were from the Esky Arctic Pro Rugged range. The 50L one comes in around $200.

Cushioned lid

Want a spot to rest? Look for a model that comes with a cushioned lid. We only reviewed 2 eskys with this feature: the Esky Arctic Pro Rugged range and the Mangrove Outdoors M45L.

Fibreglass

The most expensive ice box we reviewed was the Evakool 60. At $459 for 60L, it’s made from fibreglass. This high-performance material is supposed to be an excellent insulator as well as resistant to odours, rust and corrosion.

A portable fridge / freezer

Portable fridges / freezers are way more expensive than eskys. That’s because they’re powered, either by gas or electricity. They’re also bigger and heavier than eskys, but you won’t need to worry about refilling the ice. They’re a good option if you’re caravanning, motorhoming or campervanning.

The bottom line

Whether you’re heading to the beach or into the bush or hopping on the boat, an esky is the perfect travel companion. Keeping your food and drink at a cool temperature, the best esky should be strong and durable yet easy to carry or move around. It should be easy to organise, with a great range of compatible accessories. If you’re motorhoming, caravaning or campervanning, you might want to upgrade to a portable fridge / freezer. These hardy mini fridges plug into your car or a power source or run off gas and keep your stuff a lot cooler for a lot longer.

We think Dometic Cool-Ice Ice Boxes are a great all-rounder. With plenty of size options to choose from, regardless of price you’re getting pretty much the same great features. These include a strong and durable seam-free construction to stop cool air leaking out, carrying handles that double as tie down points and a wide range of accessories. As well as being well-priced, they come with a 5-year guarantee. 

For affordability, consider the Esky Arctic Pro and Arctic Pro Rugged. Cost-effective, they’re full of smart features like silicone gaskets in the lid for a tight seal, oversize 2-piece bungs and lockable lids. Even better, they’re designed especially for Australian weather. The reason they’re not our winner? We couldn’t find any Aussie consumers reviews. 

If durability is key, you need the YETI Roadie 20. It’s durable and tough which is proven by its official seal of approval from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (yep, it’s a real thing). To keep your beer cool, it’s got extra thick walls with 5cm of insulation, foam in the walls and lid, a tight-fitting lid and a gasket in the lid to block out heat. This extreme durability will set you back around $300. 

Want to upgrade to a portable fridge / freezer? We reckon the Bushman Original SC35-52 is Australia’s best. It’s been used and trusted by Aussies for over 20 years. We love its unique extension kit that transforms its capacity from 35L to 45L or 52L. So, it’s effectively 3 things in 1. Three stacking baskets makes it easy to find what you want. It comes with a steep price - RRP  $1,395.

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